Novartis, GlaxoSmithKline top Big Pharma's 'freshness' index of new drug sales

Now that Big Pharma's 2012 results are all in, the slicing and dicing can start. For your consideration today: the "Freshness Index," as outlined in Forbes. That's the percentage of a company's sales derived from drugs approved within the past 5 years.

Just to whet your appetite, we'll say that Novartis ($NVS) tops the index this time around. But before we get into the rest of Big Pharma's individual results, let's look at their sales as a group. As Forbes columnist Bernard Munos points out, only 10% of these top drugmakers' sales last year came from newer products.

In fact, less than half of their 2012 sales came from drugs approved since 2001. Older drugs still account for the majority of Big Pharma's sales, or about $159 billion. That makes sense when you consider the several blockbusters still on patent--Pfizer's ($PFE) Viagra, for one--and older biologics, AbbVie's ($ABBV) Humira for instance, that won't face competition until biosimilars finally emerge. (Check out the Forbes article for a long list of drugs approved before 2001 and how they're selling.)

So who performed best, freshness-wise, in 2012? On the top side is Novartis, with 19% of its sales coming from newer drugs, such as the multiple sclerosis treatment Gilenya and cancer drug Afinitor. GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) comes in a distant second place with 12%. Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) falls close behind GSK with more than 11%, with Pfizer next at 10%. AstraZeneca ($AZN) and Abbott Laboratories ($ABT)--AbbVie's former home--are at the tail end of the index, each with less than 2% of their sales from drugs approved since 2007.

- get more from Forbes